Seasonal Planning for Belgium Travel
While Belgium is a gem of a European nation that is enjoyable to visit year-round, most prefer the bright sunny skies, temperate weather, and smaller crowds of the shoulder seasons: spring and fall. Traveling from April through June will give you access to burgeoning blooms, the start of the concert and festival season, and lower prices than the summer months. In April, the mercury hovers around 50°F (10°C), crawling slowly up to an average of 59°F (15°C) in June.
Summer is the busiest time, especially on the coast. There are numerous festivals to choose between, with many featuring music. Expect long lines at attractions. Even in summer, temperatures top out at an average of 74°F (23°C).
Meanwhile, the trees put on a color show in the fall, especially in the Ardennes. The prices go down in the big cities like Brussels and Bruges, and so do the crowds. September is also the beginning of the "art season"—more extensive museum exhibitions, opera, theater, and dance performances are now available. And mild temperatures in the 50s (Fahrenheit) and 60s make for pleasant hikes.
Winter in Belgium is for cozy nights and hot chocolate. The weather is cold and rainy, an average of 34°F–44°F (1°C–7°C), with some snow in the Ardennes. Christmas markets in December rival any in Europe, drawing crowds to browse stalls and wares.
|Seasons||Pros||Cons||Best for||Where to Visit|
|Spring (Apr-Jun)||More affordable; fewer crowds; pleasant weather; beautiful blooms||Can be rainy||Sightseeing, canal cruises, cycling||Brussels for festivals, Hallerbos|
|Summer (Jul-Aug)||Warmest weather||Big crowds; more expensive||Festivals, the beach||Ghent, Antwerp, North Sea beaches|
|Fall (Sep-Nov)||Fall foliage; better prices||Chilly, rainy weather||Museums, hiking, sightseeing||Ardennes|
|Winter (Dec-Mar)||Christmas market; budget-friendly; quiet (fewer crowds)||Cold, rainy||Christmas markets, ice skating, dining out (restaurants), Carnival||Brussels, Antwerp, Binche (February)|
Spring in Belgium (April to June)
Spring in Belgium is when Belgians shake off the winter doldrums and start going outside. The relatively cooler temps also make spring a great time for cycling, and the "Flanders cobbles" in the north of Belgium has a reputation for challenging terrain and strikingly beautiful landscapes.
Fields full of flowers are a sight to behold in the countryside, especially the wildflowers of Ardennes and the bluebells in the Hallerbos forest. It's also a garden lover's paradise; the Belgian royal family opens their private greenhouses in Laeken to the public for a few weeks each year in April, and the National Botanic Garden of Belgium is not to be missed.
Festival season begins, too; music and art abound. While there is plenty on offer, the crowds remain smaller, and prices are lower than in summer, so it's the perfect time to hit museums and top attractions. Music lovers head to Iris Festival or Brussels Jazz Weekend to listen to internationally renowned artists.
Events in Spring
Art Brussels. In April, this international contemporary art fair welcomes over 25,000 visitors annually.
Bruges Beer Festival, Bruges. Every April, 80 breweries offer samples of over 350 brews, while local restaurants serve up beer-inspired menus.
Iris Festival, Brussels. With DJs pumping electronic music, street art, circus performance, dance, art, and magic, the city comes alive for the whole family in May.
Floralia, Groot-Bijgaarden. This flower show at the castle of Groot-Bijgaarden has 400 varieties of tulips blooming in May, in addition to other spring blossoms.
Fête de la Musique, Brussels. This is an open-air free music festival in June representing every imaginable genre.
Summer in Belgium (July to August)
Summer in Belgium has something for everyone, drawing in crowds of tourists. Sipping a cold Belgian beer and people-watching at an outdoor café is an excellent way to pass an afternoon. Meanwhile, the festival season is fully underway, and music lovers will always have an event to choose from, no matter their favorite genre.
The beaches of the North Sea are packed in the summer. The warm temps and seafood restaurants have locals and both foreign and domestic tourists flocking to places like Ostend Beach for luxury spas and the sea and Blankenberge for the biking and hiking trails over the dunes. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, head to the Ardennes, where you can kayak down one of the three rivers: the Ourthe, the Semois, or the Lesse.
Events in Summer
Ommegang of Brussels. This medieval festival, at the end of June/beginning of July, gives history buffs a look back to 1549, celebrating Belgium's rich history and culture when they welcomed Charles V and his son Philippe II.
Gente Feesten, Ghent. This 10-day festival in July celebrates the city of Ghent with parades, music, dance, theater, and more.
Brussels Summer Festival. A 10-day culture and music festival serving up all kinds of music from classical to hip-hop.
Dour Festival, Dour. One of the most established European festivals, Dour Festival, sees crowds of 250,000 come in August to see the multi-genre, diverse music.
Flower Carpet, Brussels. The Grand Place is transformed in August into a floral extravaganza, an 18,000-square-foot mural made of blooms.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Fall in Belgium (September to November)
One of the better times to visit Belgium is the shoulder season of fall. The weather gets cooler, crowds dissipate, and the art scene heats up—a great time to see museums and galleries, with many cultural and seasonal events on offer.
Autumn is also perfect for discovering some of Belgium's more than 3,000(!) castles, especially now that the landscapes showcase the changing foliage and there are fewer tourists around. The country is about the size of Maryland, so with careful planning, you can visit multiple castles in a day trip. Check out Gaasbeek, Gravensteen, and Groot-Bijgaarden, to name a few.
Fall is also a fine time for mushroom hunting in the Ardennes, bundling up for a canal tour in Bruges, and visiting the great restaurants for autumnal harvest feasts.
Events in Fall
Brussels Gallery Weekend. An opportunity to view Brussels in September through the lens of contemporary art, when galleries and museums open their doors for exhibitions and tours.
Les Fêtes de Wallonie, Wallonia. This festival in Wallonia occurs in September and honors Belgian independence with a mass and traditional dances.
Belgian Beer Weekend, Brussels. Taking place in the Grand Place in September, a weekend devoted to all things Belgian brews.
Brussels Design September. A September design festival focuses on graphic design, furniture, and architecture.
Film Fest Gent, Ghent. In October, Belgium's largest film festival also focuses on film soundtracks.
Winter in Belgium (November to March)
Dropping temperatures and an increase in rainfall make winter a great time to head indoors and enjoy the culinary arts of Belgium—beyond fries, waffles, and chocolate. The canals freeze over when it gets cold enough, and ice skaters make a picturesque scene on Napolean's Canal in the tiny town of Damme or in Brussels at the Winter Wonders Ice Rink during Plaisers D'Hiver.
Christmas markets around the country coax you into the holiday spirit with twinkling lights, market stalls to browse, mulled wine to sample, and chocolate treats to nibble. Unlike other European countries where the markets close before Christmas, Belgian markets usually stay open through the new year, and some of the most popular are in Antwerp and Brussels.
Events in Winter
Christmas Village, Liège. The oldest Christmas market in Belgium comes alive in December with over 200 chalets, lights, and more.
Antwerp Christmas Market. A charming old-town festival includes fireworks, market stalls, and ice skating through December.
Plaisers D'Hiver and Brussels Christmas Market, Brussels. This "Winter Wonder" has over 200 market stalls, fairground attractions like Ferris wheels, and fantastic light shows.
Brafa Art Fair, Brussels. Explore the art scene in January and February, celebrating fine arts, antiques, and design during this eight-day festival.
Bright Brussels. A light festival in February with playful light installations brightens the gray days.
Carnival of Binche. This three-day carnival before the start of Lent features street performers, dances, and costumed processions.
Giant Fire of Bouge, Namur. Wallonia celebrates the end of winter in March with a bonfire that lights up the city.